David Mihm is an online marketing consultant who creates and promotes search-friendly websites for clients throughout the United States. He serves on the Board of Directors of SEMpdx, Portland’s search marketing trade organization, as Vice President of Partnerships.
What does local search look like? 20% of searches done on Google are local in intent (out of 10 Billion monthly Searches not including mobile / Bing etc.).
Big Game Changer: 4/1/09…Google’s IP Targeted local searches for generic keywords roll out driven by a different algorithm than the main search index.
Recently, if looking for a specific business, you’ll get a link to the business place page instead of the website itself next to the location map.
Shows lots of other examples where local is being implemented.
Important to think beyond Google in local since they aren’t the dominant player in local.
Local SEO requires a different mindset than traditional SEO…it’s optimizing the location of your business, not the content.
When does the map show up?
How many businesses are listed?
Geo-targeted vs. Generic Queries.
Local Ranking Fundamentals:
Factors inherent to business (name, location)…are you in the city being searched?
What you say about yourself.
In low signal markets, these count for a lot.
The factor you can’t really optimize: Address in city of search. Essential to have a physical location in the area being searched. Proximity to Centroid…used to play a larger role. Claimed local listing, properly characterized (Critical). KW usage in business title.
Google Places is where you claim your business listing. Yahoo & Bing have similar systems.
Claiming your listing is important so it doesn’t get hijacked. If possible, claim your listing manually instead of a bulk feed.
Important to use 1 or 2 keywords in business title…incorporate or reincorporate your business using a descriptive keyword.
Photos / videos are important for Google Places because they are incorporated in the Google Places page…make the page as robust as possible.
Obvious on page stuff: Make sure your address is encoded in HTML…at the least on your individual location page. Hcard Microformat is even better. Use City, State terms in your title tags. Use internal geographic anchor text to link to your location pages.
Not-so-obvious on-page stuff…
Submit your contact / location page as your Places URL / Landing Page…stronger geographic scent = higher local ranking + higher conversion.
Where Google is headed: Important is what other people say about you / other trusted people say about you.
Citations will continue to be important (local version of a link)…contact information in structured format on other websites. Consistency is critical for citations…also, authority of cite, vertically relevant, geographically relevant, external title tags & local prominence.
Big Three Data Providers: InfoUSA, Localeze & Acxiom (via UniversalBusinessListing.org).
Awesome tool: Whitespark.ca Citation Finder
Also, check te sites that rank well in organic results for your keywords…look especially for high-authority / high-trust sites.
Not so obvious on-page stuff:
Linking out to primary industry citations from your contact page.
Links that help with Local SEO:
From geo-relecant sites, containing geographic anchor text, containing product / service anchor text, contain your places business title.
Multi-Location Best Practices:
Flat site architecture beginning with a “Store Locator” page. Give each location its own page. Cross-link nearby locations. Submit a KML sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools.
Decide on a consistent corporate business name, utilize Localeze’s Channel Partner Offerings, Utilize UBL’s / infoUSA API, Claim all LBC listings in a Corporate Google Account. Get your bulk feed verified…Google account must match the URL’s of the places you are submitting. Each location must have its own unique phone number…don’t submit duplicate phone numbers.
Reviews: Structured Reviews are critical to ranking. Reviews in trusted industry portals seem more important than generic. What trusted people say about you becoming more important. Quality more important than quality (for now). Ratings are starting to become more important (for conversion too).
#1 Review Tip…sell a great product and offer excellent service.
Also, offer Free Wi-Fi. Comment Cards / Raffle. Email Campaigns…customers with Gmail / Yahoo / Hotmail email addresses. Consider the ease of leaving a review for someone without an account. Consider the syndication value of review sources. (CitySearch vs. Yelp, etc.). Feedback should be part of your everyday business processe (review velocity). Event sponsorship / promotion.
Caveats: Know the rules for incentives. Don’t fish with dynamite. Review Threshold / Orders of Magnitued. See bad reviews as an opportunity—monitor and respond politely.
Google will probably start to incorporate reviews from domains that match Place URL’s shortly. Make I easy for them to spider your testimonials page. Use the hReview format.
Sentiment Analysis on Places Page…attempting to quantify the reviewers experience.
Unstructured reviews getting picked up as a citation…perhaps soon to be included in reviews.
GeoSocial Media: Mymaps (KML for the masses). Any Google map can create a map of his/her favorite places in the world. Create a MyMap in your Google Places and include your contact information with a pushpin of the locations. GeoSocial Media: Panoramio, Flickr
Twitter, Foursquare, social apps, Facebook Places…not integrated into Google ranking yet but likely will at some point. Submit at least one geotagged photo / vido to Panoramio / Flickr / YouTube.
Don’t use tracking phone numbers anywhere, even offline. Will mess up your local search efforts.
Offline analytics: Ask people how they heard about you & what social platforms they’re on. Keep track on an Excel spreadsheet, with post-it notes.
Priorities for uber-competitive markets:
Make sure Google Account email TLD matches Places TLD. Clean up / consolidate duplicate listings. Geographic inbound anchor text. Use custom categories for high volume, high conversion keywords and.or align categories with data providers + superpages. No geo keywords in categories fields, but think about landmarks or regions. At least 1 citation from .gov or .edu. Strong industry-relevant profile. Strong MyMaps profile…embed MyMap on your own website, other well-trafficked pages, include your location on tangential MyMaps that you help others promote. Wikipedia page citations…extremely important.